A appear back at the opening of Popolo 10 yrs in the past is a seem back at the before periods of Brisbane’s restaurant scene. James Road was in its infancy as a dining desired destination, Fish Lane (as we now know it) rarely existed. Howard Smith Wharves was not a lot much more than a several heritage-detailed properties in a vacant ton scattered with detritus from the 2011 floods.
Even the way we ate was distinct, with shared dining a novelty, says Popolo co-proprietor Andrew Baturo.
“Italian society, and points connected to Italian pop tradition, usually have that massive energy with families coming collectively in excess of dinner and plonking almost everything down on the table,” he states. “Everyone’s serving everybody, there are big jugs of wine. There is that real family members ambiance. But when I looked around Brisbane, several folks ended up performing that. It was primi and secondi, entrees and mains – it was all quite structured. Shared dining hadn’t taken off yet.”
In the previous decade’s bum hurry of new places to eat, it’s straightforward to undervalue Popolo’s tranquil influence – significantly in the very first five a long time following it opened. Named just after the Piazza del Popolo in the centre of Rome, it was an Italian cafe that designed shared dining seem to be totally natural in this town, and it quickly turned a lynchpin in the South Bank’s River Quay Eco-friendly dining precinct.
“It’s been so preferred in excess of the several years, but it took a very little even though,” Baturo claims. “It caught out a minor bit down in this article. South Lender was nevertheless incredibly a great deal orientated to the other conclude of the parklands, publish-Expo 88. It took a whilst for individuals to realise they have a really great dining precinct which is not in the CBD or the inner suburbs.”
Now, of study course, shared dining is everywhere. Italian is almost everywhere. Terrific restaurants are just about everywhere. Popolo reopens this week after a protracted a few-thirty day period refurbishment, but you question if Baturo and co-house owners Paul Piticco and Denis Sheahan (who, collectively, individual DAP & Co, which also operates The Gresham and Walter’s Steakhouse) ever deemed retooling the restaurant as some thing else entirely.
“I have an understanding of why you may possibly inquire that but we have 10 yrs of trial and mistake guiding us and 10 decades of celebrations. There is a fondness for this location,” Baturo says. “Popolo’s a solid model and it’s been actually comforting and also humbling to see the variety of folks on social media inquiring, ‘When are you gonna open? We simply cannot wait around to appear back down.’”
A refurbishment, however, is an chance for reinvention, and this is extremely a lot “Popolo 2.0”, as Baturo phone calls it. About the only factor the similar is the open-air format and the cracking views across the river in the direction of the city. Gone is the themed in good shape-out with its red neon and wall artwork, replaced by a significantly more understated treatment of terracotta tiles, arched mirrors and a parquet ground imported second-hand from a heritage buying centre in France (it was “unbelievably high priced, I really don’t even want to discuss about it,” Baturo says, laughing). It’s light, brilliant and in harmony with the outside the house environmentally friendly place, and reflects DAP & Co and Baturo’s confidence just after 10 a long time of building restaurants and bars.
The food items has been refined as well. Catching the eye between the compact plates are generate-led dishes this sort of as braised child octopus with red wine, Ligurian olives and lemon mascarpone, and truffled burrata with olive oil and toasted bread. The small variety of pizza remains but the mains have been specified a extra subtle do-around. Carried throughout from the old menu are a pappardelle with braised duck-leg ragu and Grana Padano, and a linguine dish that matches Moreton Bay bug with a spanner crab and lobster bisque. But there is also cappellacci crammed with buffalo mozzarella and burnt butter in a pumpkin puree with pancetta and toasted almonds, and conchiglie (shell pasta) with pork and fennel sausage and spicy cime di rapa (broccoli rabe). Other large plates incorporate Skull Island prawns with garlic, chilli, capers and a butter-lemon sauce roasted spatchcock with olive oil, lemon, garlic, scorching spices and rosemary and Wagyu rump tagliata with Tuscan kale, cannellini beans and aged vincotto.
“Our chef, Francesco [Vitagliano] – his foodstuff is just unbelievable,” Baturo states. “There’s a level of authenticity to it. Persons have appear out of Covid and they weren’t obtaining their steak from Woolies, they ended up shopping for it from us at Walter’s. They have been likely by way of the roof in conditions of what they have been dealing with on their own to and they’ve appear out of the pandemic stating, ‘You know what? I like Dom [Perignon]. I like a good steak. I like natural this and sustainable that.’
“What you put on the plate now requires to be elevated. It would have to be in any case – there are so a lot of terrific Italian restaurants opening in this town. We’re competing with those people men.”
For drinks, there is a blend of imported Italian and nearby craft beers, a jazzed-up cocktail record that incorporates a Negroni of the 7 days, and a 75-bottle wine listing that prioritises drops sourced from across the Italian peninsula.
Nevertheless, Baturo claims, the spirit of Popolo has not altered. It nonetheless feels at ease. It still feels approachable, as appropriate for family members as it is partners dining at the two-tops subsequent to South Bank’s Clem Jones Promenade.
“We have an understanding of our customer definitely nicely down listed here,” he says. “We know it’s not James Street. We know it is not Riverside. We go where by the shopper feels snug and by no means condescend to them. That’s what you’d feel like when you go to your nonna’s home. You really feel comfy. You feel like you’re amongst mates.”
3 Sidon Street, South Brisbane
(07) 3846 7784